Game 3 of the first round series between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz was nothing like Games 1 & 2.
Both teams limped to 100 points in Salt Lake City and for the Rockets it was a far cry from their two home games, where they averaged 120 points, thanks largely to James Harden, who was good for 30.5 points per game, 10.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists on 44.0% shooting from the field and 43.5% from beyond the arc.
In today's 104-101 win, Harden turned in one of his worst shooting performances, going 3-of-20 from the field (15.0%) and 2-of-13 from the three-point line (15.4%) and despite missing his first 15 shots, the reigning MVP said his mindset did not change as the game wore on.
"Keep shooting, keep being aggressive. 0-of-15, 14-of-15, 15-of-15, my job is to go out there and produce and be aggressive and in attack mode," Harden said. "Nothing changes."
James Harden isn't phased by a poor shooting performance.#NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/5fVEdPGk8s- NBA TV (@NBATV) April 21, 2019
The Jazz played a much better game on the defensive end on their home court, especially through the first three quarters, and when asked if his struggles could be attributed to a difference in their 'intensity' on the night, a smiling Harden put the onus back on himself. "Nope, just missed a couple of shots," he said. Two or three, I think.
"Gobert did block a couple of my shots"
Jazz big man Rudy Gobert finished the night with seven blocks, leading by example, however, the Rockets found just enough offence to give themselves a commanding 3-0 series lead, a position from which no NBA franchise has ever lost a post-season series.
Even with Harden struggling to knock down shots, the Rockets never trailed by double-digits in this game, with their role players keeping them afloat as P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, Danuel House, Eric Gordon, and Austin Rivers combined to shoot 11-of-25 from the three-point line, combining for 49 points.
"That's what they have been doing all year long, that's why we are in the position we are in today," Harden said.
"They have been confident, they have been patient. [Between] me and Chris, there is a lot of ball-handling and making plays but when they get the opportunities, they take advantage of them. Credit to those guys. They have been doing it all year long and tonight was no different."
On Tuesday, the Rockets will look to sweep the Jazz and advance to the Conference Semifinals for the fourth time in five years.